Matthew Webster, 36, of Templeton Drive, Warrington, entered a guilty plea to five offences at Warrington Magistrates Court on Wednesday 13 April.

Mr Webster faced prosecution for offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These offences were relating to providing misleading information to consumers when they purchased second hand vehicles from him when he was trading as a second hand car sales business, FC Car Sales Ltd.

The company owned by Mr Webster was originally incorporated in February 2020 as Faster Car Finance Limited, but changed its name in July 2020 to Faster Car Sales Ltd, and then again in July 2020 to FC Car Sales Ltd. Mr Webster accepted at court that he was the owner of the company.

The case focused on the complaints received by Warrington Trading Standards from consumers who purchased second hand cars from him from October 2020 through to September 2021.

Consumers reported that they had been misled to believe that any outstanding finance on their part-exchange vehicle would be settled in full by Mr Webster at the time they purchased their new vehicle from him.

An extensive Trading Standards investigation revealed that this claim was untrue. The outstanding finance agreements on part exchange vehicles were not settled until these vehicles were actually sold. This meant that consumers found themselves having to continue to pay the finance on their old vehicle as well as the finance on the new one.

In all cases, these consumers had tried unsuccessfully to resolve this issue with the company. Mr Webster was summoned to appear before the court on 16 March 2022, but the hearing was delayed for a month.

At the hearing, the prosecuting solicitor for the council explained in detail to the Magistrates the business model operated by the company, what had happened to each consumer, and the losses each had faced.

Mr. Wilbraham, defence solicitor for Mr Webster, offered apologies and remorse from his client and accepted that the business was at fault on these occasions. The court heard it was his intention to close this company down but he had available funds to settle any consumer compensation orders issued by the court, as he was planning on setting up a new similar business.

In sentencing, the Magistrates noted that they took a very dim view of his behaviour and that he had caused a lot of worry and stress to people, as well as affecting their credit rating and causing financial loss.

The Magistrates required Mr Webster to pay compensation to the consumers, totalling £16,735. He was also fined £1,000 for each of the five separate offences. Mr Webster was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £4,640, plus a victim surcharge of £190, with these orders totalling £26,565.08.

Consumers are urged to report any experiences of unfair trading practices to trading standards so they can be investigated. 

Cllr Hitesh Patel, cabinet member for environment, housing and public protection, said: “We are pleased to have another successful outcome and the consumers involved have been able to resolve this matter.

“If you feel like you have been misled or would like to report any unfair trading practices, you can get in touch with the Citizen’s Advice service with advice and support."

Warrington Trading Standards, in partnership with Citizens Advice consumer helpline, provide consumer advice and support for trading standards. For more information, visit their Citizen’s Advice website, complete the online complaint form, or phone the helpline number on 0808 223 1133 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).

For more information on consumer rights, visit: citizensadvice.org.uk.